By SHANNON WATKINS
The new security system for Pulaski County schools went live Wednesday at Pulaski Elementary.
Spearheaded by Dr. Tom Brewster and the school board, the system augments the existing precautions to keep students safe. Parents were alerted to the change by a letter sent home with children on Feb. 19.
“You know what the Department of Transportation calls children?” asked Assistant Principal Michael Greco. “’Precious cargo,’ and that’s how we think of them, too.”
The system’s linchpin is a small door-locking mechanism at the school’s main entrance combining an intercom and camera. Visitors buzz the intercom, state their name and business, and show the camera an ID. Unless the door is unlocked remotely by the main office staff, no one can enter the building. Multiple visitors within a group must each show identification before being allowed in.
“It can record interactions for us if we tell it to, so we have records for the police,” Greco said.
The system is not activated until 8:30 a.m. and students arriving before then can enter the building as usual. Adults will be present and monitoring the door during this time. After 8:30 students must be escorted into the building by an adult.
Greco noted that the device will not keep the door from being opened quickly from the inside in case of emergency evacuation. He is familiar with it, he said, since he had put one in while he worked in Check.
As a further precaution, not only must adult visitors present a checkout card, which are given to parents at the beginning of each school year, they must also be on a list of approved adults—family members, friends of the family, neighbors—submitted by the parent. Anyone who has a checkout card to pick up a child but is not on the list will not be allowed in. Parents who wish to add someone to the child’s list must appear at the office in person to make these changes.
When asked about the plan at Tuesday night’s Pulaski County School Board budget meeting, Brewster said, “It’s just to make schools more secure.”
Greco agreed, “Safety is the main thing. When I was in second grade I would walk over a mile to school. It’s kind of sad how the world has changed. Or maybe we’re just more aware of how it is now.”
According to him, parents have no problem with the new system. “Everyone has said, ‘I understand. Given what’s going on today, I understand.’”
Stephanie Repass, mother of a 3-year-old son in prekindergarten, agreed. “I do think it’s a good idea. It’s easier on the parents and the school, especially after the lockdown a while ago.”
Greco pointed out that the new system was being planned for several months by the school board and “we didn’t do it haphazardly.” He also noted that it was not installed in relation to the lockdown in early January.
“That was actually a precautionary lockdown,” he said. “In those, the outside of the school is secure but business as usual continues on the inside.” The precautionary lockdown was called due to a rumor that proved to be a misunderstanding.